And now for
I am not anti-child. But there is a time and a place for a baby and a barely-toddler, and that time and place is NOT AT AN AUTHOR READING. Sorry, parents. It is NOT.
There was a family in the second row of the audience. They had a breast-feeding baby and a, well, active toddler in tow. The first couple of readers, the kids were already acting up, to the point that I was turning around to see what the mayhem was (which meant that my attention and probably that of others in the audience was NOT where it should have been, which is on the reader). But by the time my turn came... things just got out of hand. Completely.
Look, (1) I write fairly lyrical stuff, I'm a language nerd and it shows. (2) I try to give "good reading" which means that I read with a certain degree of passion, of a theatrical aptitude (trying to give "voice" and "character" to dialogue), and there are passages where I might need to drop my voice just a little for dramatic effect and all that.
I'm pretty sure that when people make an effort to come to an author reading these are the things that they are there for. They have come to listen to the writers. And when the writers have to compete with the audience... well... it just doesn't work. There is a reason why people are asked to silence their cell phones when it comes to interactive things like readings and movies. The audience is there to pay attention to what is going on at the podium. Or at least one hopes they are.
*I found it hard to concentrate on READING my stuff, with those children whimpering and whining and leaping around and being all over the place*. I can only imagine what it must have done to the audience. I guess I could have stopped and asked for the parents to start controlling their offspring before I could go on but it would backfire in several ways - I would lose the mood I had been so bitterly careful to create, and I would probably come off as the Bitchfaced Author Demanding Attention.
But seriously - the problem became so bad that they DID take the kids out, eventually. So it wasn't something that I was making up or being "oversensitive" about. The grown-ups in this particular party were not getting anything out of this particular outing anyway - they were both too busy with dealing with the kids - momma was actually trying to breastfeed the baby and the dad had his hands full with the squirming and squealing little girl - and although as a writer I do appreciate their impulse to come out and support the writers at this event I would ask them to reconsider the manner in which their support is to be expressed. Buy the books, and read them in the comfort of your own home, where you can let your kids run as rampant as you like. But bringing your children (whom you apparently cannot or will not control to the point that they sit quietly and allow the rest of the audience to enjoy the "show" as it were )to an event like this is just not on until they are of an age of compos mentis, i.e. at LEAST six to eight years old. I'm sorry but YOUR decision to have the babies whom you love is not the problem of the rest of the world - and when you become parents you have to compromise with your lifestyle up to that point. If you want to go to movies or to a reading at a bookshop, you have the option of finding a sitter for two or three hours and going - and then going home to your children. If not that, then you have to come to terms with the fact that you will have to sit out such events until such time as your children are capable of attending with you, or confining yourself to events geared TO said children (kids' books, kids' interactive events, however much it might stutlify your adult sensibilities) until they are quite simply OLD ENOUGH to appreciate the event they're at.
In other words, your having fun with your children is great, is WONDERFUL, but your freedom to do this absolutely stops when it begins to impact other people who did not sign on to be the parents of those children. You come to things like this with toddlers, you keep them quiet and still - which, granted, is not possible with children below a certain age. Therefore, you keep them AWAY.
I sure hope you at least bought a copy of one of the anthologies, Mom and Dad with the Kids In Tow. You'd certainly need to. I'm almost positive that you could not have taken in much of the actual, you know, READINGS, by the real live people up there who were stepping out of the usual comfort zone of your average writer and facing down a live audience with their words, hoping to get a certain amount of feedback from that audience. This is something authors both have to psych themselves up to do (it's a solitary profession and it attracts a certain kind of personality for a reason, and that kind of personality isn't necessarily comfortable with being center stage) and crave (because, well, as I said writing is a solitary profession and sometimes this is the only feedback you get on some of the things that you've written, watching the response of the audience sitting there in front of you...) Next time, I'd like to ask you to remember that, and respect it. And if you want to be there in that audience listening to them open up their worlds to you and read from their stories... folks... PLEASE silence your cellphones. And control your children.
Sorry. Back to your regularly scheduled activities now.